NAECAD Interview: Mike Bisson, Maine Principals Association

October 21, 2021

The Maine Principals’ Association (MPA) is a private, educational, nonprofit corporation with voluntary membership. The MPA builds partnerships that provide a network of resources, exemplars of leadership, and a culture of collaboration for the benefit of all school community members.

The NAECAD (National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors) had the opportunity of sitting down with Mike Bisson, the Assistant Executive Director with the MPA. Bisson provides insight on the organization itself as well as the importance of esports in the community.

Can you give an overview of what the Maine Principals’ Associations is?

Mike Bisson: The Maine Principals’ Association is a member organization of 151 high schools all over Maine. It is all of our public and most of our private schools. We have two divisions: The professional division, which oversees professional development for our administrators, principals, assistant principal curricular directors. The interscholastic division oversees all the activities in Maine. For example, our sports, performing arts, drama, speech, debate, music, and recently, esports. We have six people in our office. We have three executive directors and three support staff.

Why was it important for the association to include an esports offering for the community?

Mike Bisson: Well, it’s funny; that comes from the ground up. We knew that there was a rapidly growing interest amongst students. We had started hearing from schools that it had started up. Some of our smaller colleges, community colleges here in Maine, had started programs. Had started talking to us and asked, “Hey are you looking at esports?” At that point, Play-Versus agreed with the national federation of high schools and state associations, of which we are a member.

We started to listen to their approach to esports and how it would relate to education-based activities. So we formed a committee of principals, athletic administrators, coaches, and jumped in headfirst a couple of years ago, and it has grown very rapidly.

How has the association educated itself about the opportunities of esports?

Mike Bisson: Well, I’m not sure that we’re educated; I think everyone is educating us! Mike Burnam, our executive director, and I are not exactly gamers ourselves. And we’re learning as we go. We have some great people on our committee. For example, one of our coaches in Maine is a worldwide broadcaster in esports at the college level.

So we have some great coaches. Some tech directors in Maine started a group every Wednesday of just meeting and talking about esports. So they invited us, I started listening in, and I continue to learn daily about esports coming from our schools from the college level and meeting with the colleges in Maine that are starting up programs. And how they can, the opportunities as they move on from high school.

How is the association educating parents about esports and the potential impact it can have on their students?

Mike Bisson: When we started, we got a great deal of feedback from parents. Some were very excited, some were very angry that this does not fit the model. And all we’re just sticking their kids in front of video games and a tv screen longer, even more than they are now.

We’ve learned that any activity that brings kids together to work in a team format learns to work together; Communication skills, empathy sharing, all those needed to be successful in a team setting with esports.

Some of these kids have never been involved in a school activity. And if this is the hook that gets them involved and participating at school and gets them interested to come to school every day, that fits our mission. We need to follow up on that.
At that point, it’s good for the kids. We understand the tv screen piece. What helped it grow so fast in Maine was the fact that it came at the perfect time with COVID and remote learning. We lost a lot of our activities in Maine at that time because of shutdowns. This was an avenue that kids could participate in. It helped quell the concern from many families that kids were on all-day learning, which gave them an outlet to be still able to participate.

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